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Duke Snider was Underrated

By Mike Silva ~ March 3rd, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, NY Baseball Memories.

Although growing up in Brooklyn, and spending the first 26 years of my life there, I never had the affinity for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Growing up a Mets fan, I was more interested in learning about the history of the team in Flushing, versus their ancestors that resided 3,000 miles away.

Since the creation of my radio show and website this has changed. In order to intelligently talk about the issues in baseball today, you have to know where the game has come. You also need to develop a diverse audience that reaches all different spectrums. Although the “love affair” between the borough of Brooklyn and the Dodgers isn’t what it used to be, the fact remains the Dodgers are an important part of the games history.

Over the last year I have delved more into the fifties Dodgers. The guys that couldn’t beat the Yankees (sans 1955), were a lot better than many give them credit. The “wait till next year” moniker, although true, doesn’t do justice to stars like Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Don Newcombe, and Duke Snider.

Since the inception of my program, we have done features on Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. The “Duke,” however, hasn’t been given his due, and perhaps it’s time.

When I learned about the passing of Duke Snider on Sunday, I immediately started to look him up on Baseball-Reference. I read the article by Howard Megdal in the NY Times Bats blog. Last night, Howard and I kicked off the latest radio show with a discussion about his encounter with Snider, as well as a look at his career.

I was astonished to see how good Snider was over a five year period from 1953-1957. During that time his average season was 41 homers, 117 RBI, and OPS of 1.025.

1953 26 BRO 153 590 132 198 38 4 42 126 16 82 90 .336 .419 .627 1.046 165 AS,MVP-3
1954 27 BRO 149 584 120 199 39 10 40 130 6 84 96 .341 .423 .647 1.071 171 AS,MVP-4
1955 28 BRO 148 538 126 166 34 6 42 136 9 104 87 .309 .418 .628 1.046 169 AS,MVP-2
1956 29 BRO 151 542 112 158 33 2 43 101 3 99 101 .292 .399 .598 .997 155 AS,MVP-10
1957 30 BRO 139 508 91 139 25 7 40 92 3 77 104 .274 .368 .587 .955 143 MVP-18
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/3/2011.

If not for injuries in his thirties his Hall of Fame numbers would be even better. He was every bit the player that Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were in their prime during that period. As a matter of fact, a modern day comparison is Albert Pujols or Barry Bonds.

The fact remains that injuries robbed Snider of being in the same statistical stratosphere as Mantle and Mays. His Dodgers teams always falling short also play a part in the second tier perception. Maybe I am late to the party, but looking back after his death, Duke Snider was every bit the centerfielder of his “Golden Age of New York baseball” counterparts.

If he were around today, he could be considered in the same class as Bonds and Pujols as offensive players. When you factor in his defense it might not even be a debate who is the best player in baseball.

To hear Howard and I discuss the career of Duke Snider, download last nights edition of the radio show.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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4 Responses to Duke Snider was Underrated

  1. birtelcom

    Snider was without doubt a great player. Whether he was “underrated” depends on what rating you mean. But setting him on a level with Bonds and Pujols and Mantle seems clearly incorrect. You picked Snider’s prime for your stats: ages 26 to 30. So to compare apples to apples we need to look at comparable years for Bonds, Pujols and Mantle. Since 1901, 786 players have accumulated at at least 2,500 PAs over their age 26 to 30 seasons. Of that group Snider is tied with Mike Piazza for the 24th highest OPS+ (OPS+ adjusts OPS to take into account the offensive level of the era and home ballpark in which each player played). That’s a terrific performance. But Bonds is 5th, Mantle 7th, Pujols 8th. All three of those guys also had excellent defensive reputations in their prime. Duke Snider would not have been the best player in baseball stacked up against any of these guys. Maybe you can make an argument that Snider stacks up at least close to equally with Mays over their respective ages 26-30 seasons. But Mays was playing at that same MVP-plus level from age 23 to age 35, an astounding prime that lasted 13 years, not five. Snider really doesn’t stack up with the Bonds/Pujols/Mantle/Mays group.

  2. tim

    It’s too easy to cherry pick a few seasons and then say someone ranks up with the greatest. Career stats matter most because people have to be great for an entire career and have to be good enough to be able to play that long. Arguing what ifs about war service or injurie is fantasy–if the numbers aren’t there they aren’t there; the numbers don’t lie.
    So the Duke was great for a a handful of years. Big Deal!

  3. birtelcom

    Tim: My comment above was intended to challenge the comparison to Mantle, Mays, Pujols and Bonds. But it was not intended to challenge that notion that Snider was a great player who had a great career, not just limited to a core five-year prime. Over the nine-season period from 1949 to 1957, the top five Wins Above Replacement totals (using baseball-reference’s formula) were:
    1. Stan Musial 64.9
    2. Duke Snider 58.0
    3. Mickey Mantle 56.2
    4. Jackie Robinson 54.3
    5. Ted Williams 52.1
    6. Yogi Berra 44.3

    It’s true that I’ve cherry-picked here a bit by selecting Snider’s nine best seasons, which were not the nine best seasons for the other guys. But the list still indicates why Duke Snider was legitimately considered one of the greatest players of that era.

  4. Paul J. Bosco

    When the Dodgers moved from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to the 1932 Olympic Stadium in LA, Snider had to contend with the most distant right-field wall in baseball history. He hit 40-43 HRs per year, 1953-57, but 15-23 per year in that misshapen ballpark. As his BA was .312 and .308 in ’58 & ’59, his “decline” seems mainly due to that wall. Even as it is, Snider had the most HRs –by a bunch– and RBI for the 1950s decade.

    Mays lost HRs to the Candlestick Park winds, AT FIRST, but learned to use the wind to hit ‘em out in right-center. Mantle always had a cushy right-field wall. However, The Yanks should’ve traded him to get Ted Williams. Or better, they should’ve traded DiMaggio for Williams, who would’ve hit 400 or more HRs in home games at Yankee Stadium, eventually playing next to Mantle.

    Gee, there were so many more critical world issues to talk about, when NYC had THREE teams. And there was so much more passion attached to players, when their careers were identified with one team and one city, and not the current high bidder…

    Paul J. Bosco

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